Peru: Losing bowel control in an earthquake

I’d flown into Huaraz, in central Peru, to hike the famous Santa Cruz trek. Things did not go precisely as planned, to say the least, but that is another matter and need not concern us at present.

The plane (strictly one per diem) arrives with the sparrows, and I had been raised before the dawn. A taxi delivered me into the city for a price sufficient to feed the entire province. My trekking guide met me at the Plaza, and duly extracted payment from me, one which in no way represented the quality of her service. But again, another matter.

Once the financial transaction was completed, I was of less interest to her, and she offered to deliver me to my hostel. It was well recommended in all the usual guides.

Unfortunately, it was still before 8am, and there were no rooms ready. There was, however, a communal room available where I could relax for an hour or so (say 6) while the previous tenant was ejected and my room was readied.

The communal room was populated at this hour by three people – two beards and one Brazilian, all of whom gave me a friendly ‘sup’ at my entrance, before returning to their conversation regarding treks, both past and proposed. I pretended to busy myself with an ancient copy of “Mountaineering” magazine that had been left behind by a previous guest while I eavesdropped. After all, they sounded like seasoned veterans and might know a thing or two.

As it turned out, they had little of interest to say, and they eventually drifted off to have a morning nap, wash their sweat-encrusted undergarments, or suchlike. It was at about this point I felt a twinge about the bowel region.

You see, I had not yet been given a room, or a toilet to utilise, and I had risen early, as previously averred. Add to this the strong airport coffee of which I partook at Santiago, and you may understand the issue.

There was a small facility in this common room, and I made an urgent bee-line for it. I had barely dropped my strides and locked the door before noisily blasting the bowl. I was grateful for the absence of humans with a sense of hearing.

Unfortunately, I had entered this rudimentary khazi with a certain amount of haste, and had left my backpack by the magazine rack. And, as it turned out, a thoughtless individual had used the last of the wiping material, and left nothing but a bare cardboard cylinder rotating wistfully about the dispenser. Like any well-prepared traveller, I carried an emergency supply of wet wipes, but these were now tantalisingly out of reach.

Reality dawned on me. I had nothing with which to wipe. That which I had, was without. What-, or who- else was without, I could not know.

I held my breath. I listened. Nada. (This, by the way, was my new Spanish).

I gently shot back the bolt and cracked the door. All clear so far. I raised my strides enough to cover my modesty but not enough to soil my smalls (A conundrum, or trade off. One does the best one can in the circumstances) and cautiously hobbled over to my backpack. I extracted the cleansing product and gratefully returned to the stall to complete my ablutions without being seen.


I was really looking forward to a quick kip at this point. With extreme exertions ahead in the mountains, even a short rest would be welcome. A query with the proprietor proved profitable. The room was ready! I was given an oversized key and shown to a sizeable room with three beds. I allocated one to my luggage, another to my shoes and sagged gracefully onto the remainder. Sleep came easily.

I had barely the opportunity to blink when my repose was disturbed. The building shuddered like a blancmange in a windstorm. I dimly recalled that the town had been levelled in recent history by an earthquake of magnitude 7 (or so) and wondered if it was my fate to perish in lightening’s second strike. As I shook the sleep from my consciousness I decided that it rather sounded like someone was taking to the building with a sledge hammer. Whatever was going on, the possibility of sleep was gone. I decided to investigate.

Descending the stairs to reception, I discovered that someone was taking to the building with a sledgehammer. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was the owner. Knocking out a wall or two. As you do.

“Terribly sorry,” he said. “I’m nearly finished.”

My sleep definately was.


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